Saller addresses campus parking crunch, suggests solutionsBy Josh Schonwald
New parking lots, incentives for people who car-pool and bike to work, and the hiring of a “parking czar” were among the strategies discussed by Richard Saller, Provost of the University, at a November 2004 town hall meeting in the Biological Sciences Learning Center.
As part of a broad conversation about the University’s 2004 Master Plan Extension, Saller fielded numerous questions from a standing-room-only crowd about how to increase the availability of parking in Hyde Park.
Based on the findings of a University task force on parking, which Donald Reaves, Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer, headed up last summer, Saller said the most pressing need is to expand parking for the staff and patients of the University Hospitals.
A new parking lot is being planned for construction at the intersection of 61st Street and Drexel Avenue. The University also is planning to add additional parking spaces in a mixed-use retail/parking development at the intersection of 61st Street and Woodlawn Avenue.
Anticipating growth in staff employment, the University must think creatively about new locations for parking structures, Saller said. For instance, one novel idea, proposed by a University-hired architectural consultant but not yet approved by the University Board of Trustees, was to build a parking structure below Stagg Field. The field would be raised a half story to accommodate an underground parking structure.
While parking problems exist across the campus, Saller said the first new parking facility to be built on campus would address the needs of the hospital and biomedical research staff, which is expected to have the greatest growth.
However, the expansion of parking facilities is costly. Each parking space costs $25,000 to create, and maintenance together with debt service costs $2,000 each year. Moreover, the addition of parking spaces, Saller said, will not solely cure the campus parking crunch.
Another key part of the parking strategy will be to encourage staff, students and faculty to consider other transportation options.
The Parking Task Force, commissioned last summer, found more than 3,000 people who park on or around campus are residents of the communities that surround Hyde Park and Kenwood. “Many people who live one mile from campus are driving to work,” said Saller, who admitted he, too, has driven to campus.
The University is planning to add a “parking czar” position—a person who will not only focus on parking logistics, but also will think broadly about transportation alternatives. To further help alleviate parking problems, Saller expects the University will begin to offer incentives for employees who car-pool, walk or bike to work.
The University also will explore the possibility of offering other transportation services, such as a shuttle bus to Union Station to encourage employees to use public transportation.